BIO 210 Writing Assignment


Important Notice: To receive the most extra credit points possible from this writing assignment, carefully read and follow all of the instructions listed below exactly as they are written.  Failure to follow any of these instructions to the letter may lead to the loss of potential extra credit points, a possible automatic deduction of up to 30 points from your course total and disciplinary action for Academic Misconduct!




The main objectives of this writing assignment are to learn:


   (1) What constitutes primary literature in the biological sciences.

(2) How to find, use and correctly cite primary scientific literature.

(3) How to write the Introduction section of a scientific paper using the primary literature.

(4) How to formulate a testable RESEARCH (not explanatory) hypothesis based on a biologically sound rationale and information from the primary literature about your species.

(5) How to write an appropriate Title for a proposed research project.

(6) How to follow a set of instructions for preparing a scientific manuscript.

(7) How to recognize what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it.


General Guidelines


Pick up your assigned species from the list posted by your course Code Number in the Animal Biology Laboratory (325 Cowley Hall) or on the following website:



Begin your paper by using any convenient source of information (such as the Internet) to gain a general understanding of your assigned species. For example, its common name, description, range, habitat, life history characters, etc.


Next, search the primary literature to find out what kind of research has been done on your assigned species. When you feel that you have some idea of the extent of this research, narrow your focus to an area that interests you.


Once you have decided on the area of research about your assigned species that interests you, use a biologically sound rationale (line of reasoning) to propose an original, testable research hypothesis about your species. If the rationale for presenting this hypothesis is not apparent to the reader or if your hypothesis is not testable in a reasonable amount of time (i.e. within a few years), you will not get credit for this hypothesis!  Once again, your hypothesis cannot be an "explanation" of something that is happening or has happened;  it must make a testable prediction!


Important Note: Your hypothesis must be original (your own) – you cannot simply copy a hypothesis that has been proposed by other researchers.


If you do copy someone else’s hypothesis and present it as your own, you will get no extra credit points for the writing assignment and automatically have 30 points deducted from your course total!


Once you have formulated your hypothesis, decide on an appropriate Title for your paper that reflects that hypothesis.


Next, complete an Introduction section to a research paper, using one, double-spaced page of text that leads the reader in a logical and transparent fashion to the specific question you hope to answer with your hypothesis.


Place your Title at the top of the first page and your hypothesis in the last paragraph of the first page.  


Important: Your Introduction must incorporate at least three appropriate primary literature references that are correctly cited and formatted in the Literature Cited section (according the style shown in Appendix-E of your Outline Notes) to get full credit for the assignment.


Articles in edited volumes, books, encyclopedias, government publications, technical reports, internet websites, newspapers, etc. are not considered primary literature nor are popular magazines such as National Geographic, Natural History, National Wildlife, etc.


If you have any doubt as to whether a reference you are planning to use qualifies as primary literature, check with your instructor well before you plan to hand in your assignment!


Although you may use and cite as much information as you wish from such sources, they do not count as primary literature references, and you will receive no credit for them.


While Internet references that come from websites such as are not considered primary literature, realize that legitimate, peer-reviewed scientific journals appearing online may be used to satisfy the primary literature requirement.


If you obtain a primary literature reference from the Internet, do not include the data base information, URRL, accession date, etc. Cite it exactly the same way as you would for a journal article retrieved from the library (i.e., Author, Year, Article Title, Journal, Volume and Pages).


You must attach a photocopy or computer printout of either the first page of the article or the first page of its abstract that includes the year, author(s), journal, volume and page numbers (if you are only able to obtain an abstract of the article from an Online database) of each primary literature reference cited in your paper.


But, do not include photocopies of references from sources other than the primary literature; each photocopy of a reference other than from the primary literature will result in a deduction of one point from your total!


How To Find Primary Literature

must attach a photocopy or computer print out of either the first page of the article or its abstract (if you are only able to obtain an abstract of the article from an Online database) of each primary literature reference cited in your paper. These pages should be attached to your completed writing assignment following your Literature Cited section.


Important Note: Any primary literature reference cited in your paper that is not accompanied by a photocopy of its first page or  abstract will result in the loss of two points and a possible charge of Academic Misconduct!


But, do not include photocopies from sources other than the primary literature!


How To Find Primary Literature


Some of the best sources for finding primary literature and abstracts in the biological sciences are a variety of  databases maintained by UW-L’s Murphy Library at the following site: 


Sometimes primary literature can also be found by looking at the references cited in books that contain information about your species. Useful Tip: Once you have one primary literature reference, your can refer to their literature cited section to find more references!


As stated above, you may use as many sources other than primary literature as you wish to complete the main body of your paper. Such sources include: Books, technical reports, encyclopedias, popular magazines and Internet websites such as


Note: If you find a useable abstract or full text article from a bona fide, peer-reviewed primary literature source online, this is not considered an Internet reference, and you may use it even if you do not have access to a hard copy of the article or abstract.


But remember, if you are using an Online primary literature reference, make sure that you cite the author(s), year, article title, journal, volume and pages and obtain a computer print out of the first page of the article or its abstract (as printed directly from the Internet source) and attach it to your finished paper


Other Considerations


All numerical values should be reported in metric (S.I.) units onlytwo points will be deducted if English units are used anywhere in the paper (except if they are part of a quotation)!


You are to identify your completed work only by your Code Number (not your name), which should be placed (in boldface) in upper right hand corner of the first page; if your name appears anywhere on the paper or if your Code Number is not placed in boldface, two points will be deducted


Also, make sure to place your correct Lab Section (Lab Section: 10L, Lab Section: 11L, etc) in boldface in the upper left hand corner of the first page.


  All species and genera must be placed in italics (no matter where they appear in the paper). Two points will be deducted for each occurrence or incorrect format (i.e., Homo Sapiens).


For an example of a completed writing assignment, see Appendix D in your spiral-bound set of class notes. Follow the style of all elements included in this example exactly, especially that of the Literature Cited section of Appendix D!


Failure to follow (to the letter) the guidelines of the Literature Cited section presented in Appendix C and the citation style used in Appendix D  will result in the loss of a substantial portion of the possible extra credit points! 


Another source of good information is the “Communication in the Biological Sciences Website”


When preparing the Literature Cited Section, make sure you pay close attention to such details as: the use and placement of punctuation marks. For example, the separation of the names of more than two authors by commas, the use of a parentheses enclosing the issue (Note: This is optional; if it is given you may include the issue, but it not, leave it out and use the same style for all of the your primary literature references), a colon between the volume and article page numbers, etc.


Also note the use of initials for the first and middle names of the author(s), the order of the initials (following the first author; preceding those of other authors), the use of lower case letters for all words in the title except for the first and proper names, the indentation of all lines except the first and the complete (i.e., not abbreviated) title of the journal your are citing, etc.


If after availing yourself of these resources you still have questions about any aspect of the writing assignment, be sure to see your lecture instructor (not anyone else)!


Remember, the Literature Cited section of your paper must contain a minimum of three references (correctly formatted) from the primary literature, that is, peer-reviewed, bona fide scientific journals (periodicals). You may have more than one reference from the same journal, or more than three primary literature references, but you must have at least three!


The last page or your completed Writing Assignment should be a signed Signature Page. If this page is not attached to your assignment, you will not receive credit for the assignment and will have 15 points deducted from your course total.


Important Note: Make sure that you read this Signature Page carefully before you hand in your assignment for credit. The terms and conditions outlined in this Signature Page represent a binding contract between you and the instructor that cannot be broken once you have handed in your paper!


The total number of extra credit points possible is 15 with the following grading breakdown:


Title (appropriate, concise, descriptive of what was done, etc.) – 2 pts.

Introduction (explains to the reader the logic behind your experimental question) – 3 pts.

Hypothesis (original, testable, based on a biologically sound rationale, etc.) – 2 pts.

Literature Cited (correct format, use of citations, minimum number required, etc.) – 8 pts


Getting Help?


Please note, that your instructor will be available to answer any questions pertaining to the completion of this writing assignment either in person or via e-mail, but that the cut-off period for seeking such help is 48 hours prior to the date and time that the assignment is due!


    After this 48 hour deadline has passed, under no circumstances contact your instructor regarding any aspect of this assignment! Also, if you have not picked up your Code Number (which must be used to obtain your species) by this time, you will not be allowed to do so and have 15 points deducted from your course total!


Instructions for Handing In Your Paper


Remember that the correct order of the pages of the completed assignment is as follows:


 (1) First Page – Code Number, Lab Section, Title and Introduction with hypothesis

 (2) Second Page – Literature Cited Section (appropriately formatted)

 (3) Next Pages – Photocopies of the first pages of primary literature cited or abstract if used

 (4) Last Page – A signed Signature Page


To receive any extra credit, the completed Writing Assignment must be turned in to your lecture instructor personally  (i.e., each student must turn in only his or her own work) no later than 12:00 Noon, Thursday, 1 November 2012.


Assignments will not be accepted for extra credit after this date and time, and you will have 15 points deducted from your course total. Accordingly, you are strongly urged to turn the completed assignment at ahead of time to avoid losing points due to unforeseen events!


Also, failure to turn in the completed assignment to your lecture instructor personally will also result in the automatic loss of 15 points! That is, if it is left on his desk, put in his mailbox, shoved under his door, etc. it will not be accepted for credit and will automatically result in the deduction of 15 points!


Note: This has become necessary because some students in the past have claimed that they left their paper and that somehow it had gotten lost or they asked someone to turn in the assignment for them, and that person turned it in late!


Graded writing assignments will not be available until all of the last lab practical exams have been given.  The exact date, time and place they may be picked up will be provided to you by your lecture instructor.  Please do not ask for them prior to this date!


Academic Integrity


It is important that you maintain academic integrity (as outlined in the student handbook and UWS policies)   in all aspects dealing with the preparation of your writing assignment and, for that matter, in the submission of any material for which you wish receive credit at UW-L! 


In addition to the possibility of losing points and receiving a disciplinary sanction, engaging in academic misconduct carries with it a much more serious penalty – the loss of your own personal integrity, which identifies who and what you are.


Although the pressure to maintain a good grade point average can often tempt a student to take short cuts that clearly constitute academic misconduct, resist this temptation. It is simply not worth the risk that you might end up ruining your reputation and chances of achieving your career goals!


To that end, remember that you must always correctly and accurately acknowledge in your paper the source of any information, ideas, facts, figures, etc. taken from others. To fail to accurately acknowledge the correct authorship of any material you include in your paper is plagiarism, which constitutes academic dishonesty, a violation of the Student Honor Code!


   Thus, it is very important that you pay close attention to the actual authorship of any information you cite in your paper, which means that you must be very careful to obtain and read any reference that is cited in your paper and appears in your Literature Cited!


   To include information in your paper and attribute its authorship to a source that you have not actually obtained and read constitutes Academic Misconduct since you are attempting to get credit for work not actually performed!


   Also be careful to avoid the “he said, but actually she said pitfall”, that is, incorrectly giving credit for information or a direct quotation you use in your paper to the author or authors of a source from which you obtain this information or quotation when the author or authors of the paper, book, Internet source, etc. you are using indicate that this information has come from another source, which they properly acknowledge!


   For an example how this can happen if you are not careful see the following:  You are reading an article by Jones (2008) that contains the following statement: “Prior to the 1800s, mountain lions were found in New York State (Smith 2005).”


    In this case, even though the article you are reading was written by Jones, he is giving proper credit to the source of this information, that is, the original author (Smith 2005). Thus, you cannot include this information in your paper and then cite its authorship as Jones 2008 – The information actually came from Smith 2005!


  What should you do in such cases?  You have two choices:


(1) The best option is to find the original article by Smith (2005), read it, and include this information in your paper, giving credit for its authorship to Smith (2005), making sure you attach a photocopy or computer print out of the article or its abstract to your completed paper.


(2) Alternatively, you can use the following format: “Prior to the 1800s, mountain lions were found in New York State (Smith 2005 as cited in Jones 2008).


   Note that the “as cited in Jones 2008 lets the reader know that Smith (2005) is real source of this piece of information about mountain lions, that you did not actually read Smith’s (2005) original article, and that you are not claiming that you did, thereby avoiding a possible charge of Academic Misconduct!  In such cases, you need only include Jones 2008 in your literature cited and not the paper by Smith 2005!


   Please realize that deliberate plagiarism is a serious offense that constitutes Academic Misconduct, and according to UWS 14.0 (subsections UWS 14.05, 14.06 or 14.07) Disciplinary Sanctions for Academic Misconduct may include (among others) receiving a failing grade in the course!


   For more information on the definition of plagiarism and the potential consequences of doing so, you can click on the following Wikipedia link:


   In addition to making sure that you acknowledge the correct authorship of any material you include in your paper you must also be careful not to use the exact words of another author without enclosing them in quotation marks.


   To do so constitutes plagiarism (even if you cite that author), as is using whole sentences (or strings of more than three words) from another author (cited or not) in which you simply change a word or two!


   Note: Quotations are rarely used in scientific papers and should be avoided unless you find it impossible to accurately paraphrase the information you have gotten from a reference!


   If the work you submit contains plagiarized material, it will not be accepted for credit and you will automatically have up to 30 points subtracted from your course total and may be subject to possible disciplinary action!


   Also remember that if your hypothesis is not your own but rather a hypothesis you have gotten from another source, you will automatically have 30 points deducted from you course total!


   This is a violation of the University’s Student Honor Code, which can lead to a charge of Academic Misconduct, resulting in a disciplinary sanction. And again, remember that according to UWS 14.0 (subsections UWS 14.05, 14.06 or 14.07) Disciplinary Sanctions for Academic Misconduct may include (among others) receiving a failing grade in the course!


   Once again, if you are not sure as to what actually constitutes plagiarism (or have any other questions relating to the Writing Assignment), see appendix C and/or consult with your instructor before handing in your paper!


   As mentioned above, you may also wish to visit the Biology Department’s “Communication in the Biological Sciences”  Website for additional information relating to plagiarism (as well as other writing issues) at:


   Other recommended websites relating to avoiding plagiarism and maintaining academic integrity include:


(1) Murphy Plagiarism page:

(2) Purdue University page:

(3) Indiana University page:


   Finally, you can click on the Power Point Slide Show found on your Zoo Disc that relates specifically to how to avoid plagiarism while completing the Animal Biology writing assignment.


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